The old John Wanamaker quote “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half” rang true for a century but if it’s still true for your law firm or accountancy firm you’re not using your website analytics effectively.
Every year tens of thousands of prospects and clients interact with your website’s staff profiles, articles, practice group descriptions, office pages and other elements – and that’s just for small firms. Larger firms in our benchmarking see 500,000 or more visitors a year.
And in contrast to 19th century posters or newspaper ads, your webserver is looking over your client’s and prospects shoulders every time they do something. Not only do your analytics (for most lawyers or accountants Google Analytics) identify what pages were visited, but where the visitor came from, the sequence of pages, and whether the visitor is new or someone who has been to your site six times before (all in the default basic version of Google Analytics).
Think of your website as a volunteer market researcher who works for you 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
What insights will a good analytics implementation give you?
A good analytics implementation is likely not what you’re currently getting, which for most lawyers and accountants tends to be highest volume pages, whether your total visitors numbers are up or down, and maybe how much traffic you’re getting from search and other channels.
A good Google Analytics implementation can give you both online and offline insights such as:
- which specific fee earners may benefit from business development coaching or may be experiencing timesheet/billing issues?
- which specific external websites send you visitors that are more likely to do business with your firms (versus simply traffic volume)?
- did the website change just made to your article page design improve things or not?
- which specific lawyer profile pages or specific practice group pages most need editing?
- what days and hours are most effective for your newsletter program or other communication?
- what kinds of external channels and content are most conducive to social sharing?
and many other insights besides.
For an effective analytics implementation your website needs to clearly identify high value activities (HVAs)
Although getting the largest audience for your website (as a free public resource) is a good thing, it’s more important that you get business outcomes which are of high value.
The first thing to know is that default Google Analytics is lowest common denominator as it has to work for every possible website out there: both yours and the guy selling lampshades. Those two websites are very different and the insights available depend on the structure of your website.
To track high value activities Google Analytics needs to be told explicitly what they are. The lampshade website has a shopping cart page as a high value activity but what is your professional services firm’s equivalent of a shopping cart page?
In many (but not all) cases it will not be a ‘page’ at all, it will be an activity like a visitor emailing or telephoning one of your fee earners from their profile on your website (we actually recognise 30-40 different ‘higher value activities’ in our Google Analytics Enrichment process).
So the insights you’ll get from GA will depend on how your site is structured and almost always involve some tweaks to enable you to track higher value activities better.
For example below you can see a simple staff profile page structure that enables you to measure 100% of the phone calls or emails made to your fee earners (by simply having a ‘plus’ button that you click to get contact details):-
If your staff profiles don’t look like this (one solution but there are better ones) it’s a good idea to have someone review your site and suggest the tweaks to make.
You’ve tweaked your site to track HVAs – how do you get GA to start recording them?
By default GA does not record high value activities like emails and phone calls and numerous other high value activities like social media shares.
Once the tracking of these HVAs commences, depending on well structured your site is and the volume of traffic you get, you may have to wait a few months before building up enough data to draw firm conclusions. Sheer traffic volume isn’t everything though – a small firm can also get good insights by better capturing the high value activities that occur – because the smaller firm faces less internal hurdles when it comes to website tweaks.
Getting the best reporting from Google Analytics
As you might expect a generic Google Analytics report will not deliver you the kinds of insights detailed above out of the box.
If you want to identify for example, which specific publications deliver the most business develpment activity for your firm (so you can write more of those or update them) you need to build a report that combines views of publications (and only publications) with specific high value activities (such as contacting staff) that occur in the same visit (and in the right order) and maybe only for say just new visitors, or non-clients).
To roll out this kind of reporting you need someone a good understanding of:
- the underlying metrics that GA supports and the strengths and weaknesses of each one
- your specific Google Analytics implementation
- how to build layered segmented reports effectively in GA
- which outcomes and issues are key for professional services firms
In addition to the skillsets, for full flexibility and richer graphical output you may need external reporting tools that use the Google Analytics API.
Looking at the above you can see why most firms don’t get the insights from Google Analytics they should: they won’t have the tools, skills and time available inhouse to do so (although specialised Google Analytics training for prof services firms is available).
Buy or build your GA implementation?
DIY GA reporting implementations are usually a struggle at both ends: resulting in only partial capture of HVAs, and then struggling to get the information out of Google Analytics in a usable way. And that’s assuming your website is optimally structured for good analytics (as most aren’t).
Like building a website (or perhaps a better analogy installing a new accounting system), it’s better to outsource your analytics implementation to analytics specialists.
Be aware too that generic GA consultants usually have little experience of professional services firms. Find someone who does, as the priorities for professional services firms and their websites are very different to e-commerce websites.